Is the Mass Murderer Anders Behring Breivik Insane?
Anders Behring Breivik in two different attacks on 22 July 2011 became the worst mass murderer in modern Scandinavian history. He killed a total of 77 people, 8 with a car bomb outside a government office building in central Oslo, and the remaining 69 with a massacre of unprecedented scope and brutality when he spent nearly an hour and a half methodically shooting people attending a summer camp of the Workers’ Youth League (AUF) on the island of Utøya outside of Oslo. He also wounded many others, mentally and physically.
ABB has confessed to carrying out these attacks, claiming that his actions were “atrocious but necessary.” There is also plenty of technical evidence, with videos and numerous witnesses. This represents a rather rare case where we can be virtually 100% that the man who is in custody really did commit the crime in question.
Other things remain controversial, however. Due to the great scope of the massacre, many people, myself included, initially wondered whether there were several perpetrators. Norwegian police after conducting months of investigation claim that ABB acted alone and was not part of a wider terror network. Perhaps this made him harder for the security services to detect.
This brings us to the first question: What caused him to carry out these horrible acts? In the long manifesto which he circulated on the Internet to justify his atrocities, he quoted a large number of people — with myself among the most prominent — who are critical of Islam and the current immigration policies supported by Western governments. This triggered a lot of public animosity against this community of writers.
And the second question: Is Breivik sane or insane?
This is the subject I will focus on here.
After careful examination, a panel of experts confirmed in December 2011 that Breivik is to be considered criminally insane. The head of the panel of experts, Karl Heinrik Melle, said there was “no major objection” to the initial report published by the psychiatrists Synne Sørheim og Torgeir Husby. They found that ABB suffers from paranoid schizophrenia and cannot be held accountable for his actions. The panel’s conclusions were submitted to the Oslo district court. In their 243-page report, Sørheim og Husby painted a picture of a person with “grandiose illusions” who is incapable of living peacefully in a modern society in his present state. I will take a closer look a what their report reveals.
In January 2012, an Oslo court ordered a new psychiatric evaluation of ABB after this earlier, contested report found him insane. “Due to the gravity of this case, the criminal responsibility (of Behring Breivik) must be examined again,” Oslo District Court judge Wenche Elizabeth Arntzen stated. Two new experts, Agnar Aspaas and Terje Tørrisen, were named to evaluate the 32-year-old’s sanity before the beginning of his trial in April. Breivik refused through his lawyer to cooperate with the probe. “He feels the first report was 80-percent wrong,” his main defense lawyer Geir Lippestad said after informing his client of the judges’ decision.